It’s Wednesday night and you’re trying to figure out where you should go for dinner. Maybe you just want to go out and have a few beers and watch the game while shoveling down some wings. Maybe you and your significant other just want to go out for quick bite and maybe a glass of wine. It’s nothing super fancy, but it has a great drink selection, friendly staff and good food at a reasonable price point. Short of sounding like a cheesy advertisement – the place that I keep going back to time and time again is Tonics Pub.
There are many reasons this place keeps calling me back. Maybe it’s because sitting at the bar is not unlike an episode of ‘Cheers’, thanks to its regulars; after a while everyone seems to know your name, and if you are just as friendly back to the staff, you’ll be treated like one of the family.
So, in keeping with that family frame of thought, I decided I wanted to know a bit more about the Pantazopoulos legacy. Having known the actual family for the length of time I’ve lived in Kelowna; running into them at Greek community functions (in case you didn’t notice my nationality by my name, I just gave you a HUGE clue), and frequenting Tonics on a regular basis, I wanted to delve a bit deeper and get to know a family that has sunk some serious roots into Kelowna’s economy over the past 30 years.
The Sintichkis family immigrated to to Prince George, Canada from Greece in the early 60’s. Then Antonios (Tony) Pantazopoulos moved there from Greece shortly after when he was only 16 to work at an uncle’s restaurant. That’s where he met the Sintichkis daughter, Maria.
In 1989, Maria, Tony and their son Nick moved to Kelowna, and opened what became a staple in local cuisine for almost 20 years; Christopher’s Steak and Seafood on Lawrence Avenue. Then in 1993, Tony opened Yamas Greek Restaurant on Ellis Street, which is still one of the top local Greek Restaurants to-date. With a desire to open a restaurant that was a departure from Greek fair, the opportunity arose to take over the space that was right beside Yamas; a coffee shop (does anyone remember Judge-R-Bean?).
With some much needed renovations and a pub-fair oriented menu, the new pub opened its doors in 2003. The name Tonics is a combination of both Tony and Nick’s names. Fast forward to now; Tonics is still going strong, and one of the many reason’s that this pub is still a fan favorite is due to the many efforts of Tony and Maria’s forward thinking daughter, Nina, who has a keen sense when it comes to business and marketing.
I got a chance to chat with Nina and ask how she came to be the radio voice of Yamas Greek Restaurant and front-of-house manager at Tonics.
Nina told me her story:
“I was shopping one day and our ad came on and I was like ‘hmmm, this sounds familiar’, but they kept pronouncing the name [Yamas] wrong. Every single time, they’d say ‘eio-mous’ (it’s pronounced with a YAM by the way; think orange vegetable). So I called the radio station to tell them that they were pronouncing the name wrong, and jokingly I said, ‘so do I need to come down and do the ads myself?’, and the guy I was speaking with said, ‘yeah, that’s a great idea!’, so that’s how I started doing the ads – it’s kind of fun. You get into the audio booth and you kind of feel like Britany Spears.”
“And even though I wasn’t doing the Tonics promotions, people would hear my name on the radio and because they knew me from the pub, they would go over to have a bite and a drink just to tell me they heard my ad. It kind of became a double-bubble bang”.
After we chatted for a bit longer, I decided to order my favorite dish on the menu; the Veggie Burger – which I of course upgrade to my favorite salad; Spinach with goat cheese, peppers, mushrooms, black olives (which I get without, as contrary to popular belief, not all people with my heritage enjoy olives), with a honey-mustard vinaigrette.And as far as veggie burgers go – and I’ve had a lot; the one at Tonics happens to be the best one I’ve had. The patty is made with brown rice, mushrooms, and it’s topped with Monterey Jack Cheese, onions, tomato, lettuce, and it actually tastes like I’m having a real burger!
The Veggie burger, with the Spinach Salad upgrade, along with a Rickards’s Radler still came in at only $17 — which for a downtown restaurant — is pretty amazing!
Tonics also has some great specials through-out the week such as Pizza and a pint for $12.99 on Mondays (I highly suggest the Mediterranean pizza), 33 flavors of wings night Wednesdays & Sundays, or happy hour from 2pm- 5pm daily to name a few! You can check out their full menu here.
Tonics pub is located right on the corner of Leon Ave and Ellis St (1654 Ellis St) downtown.